children’s church

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1950s-1960s-college-woman-studying-surrounded-all-around-by-piles-of-booksIf you’re like me (and I know I am), you put a lot of emphasis on teaching kids the Word of God every week – and in some cases, several times or venues a week.

I was on staff at a church and had 4 Kids’ Church large groups on a weekend. Add to that a Sunday School hour, Wednesday night large groups (of which I’m involved) and Wednesday night small groups. We also have a myriad of classes and services for toddlers and preschoolers and even some teaching time for infants that our wonderful staff on directors and volunteers oversee and participate in.

THERE’S A WHOLE LOT OF TEACHING GOING ON!

Let me encourage you this week as you plan for the upcoming Wednesday or Weekend and give you a pointer that I just know will give you the confidence and in some cases the “know-how”… and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few years: INFORMATION is POWERFUL when you APPLY IT.

Start preparing early in the week for the upcoming lesson or class time. In other words, if your ministry time was over the weekend, crack open that lesson book or materials on Monday… if your ministry time was on Wednesday; then make Thursday your day to start studying. You don’t have to plan your entire lesson on that day, but at least:

  • Read over the lesson
  • Know and memorize the key verse
  • Look up and read any supporting verses
  • And know the main point of the lesson.

Why should you do this? I’m glad you asked!

…When you start early in the week, it gives the Holy Spirit time to be your helper… instead of (gulp) having to work in spite of you. Think about it: all week long as you pray over the materials you’ve read, the Lord will reveal unique teaching ideas, stories you’ve heard or events in your life that you could work into your lesson. As the day of ministry gets closer and you are planning what that class time should look like, instead of saying, “Lord, what am I going to teach?” …you’ll be able to say “Lord, how do I fit all of these ideas into the lesson?”

Try it – I promise it will work. And as always, if you ever need a teaching idea, I’m just an e-mail away and I’m happy to brainstorm with you! I’d better let you go – some of you need to start studying!

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I’ve taught a lot over the years on the structure of a children’s church.

I believe in it!  It’s a place where kids are gathered corporately and worship, learn and fellowship. Those of you who have a Large Group/Small Group format can still benefit from this information as well as those who have a major emphasis on a children’s worship service – AKA: Children’s Church.

One day, while studying to teach on this topic once again at a conference, I realized that the children’s church service was a hybrid of several models. The Children’s Church has mix of the following elements:

  • Education
  • Inspiration
  • Entertainment

Here are the three models:

The Education Class Model –

This model has been used for years and is like a mantra to classic and succesful educators:

  • Tell them what are going to teach them – this is the icebreaker/opener that introduces kids to the lesson.
  • Teach it to them – teach them using all the fun methods that you use.
  • Tell them what you just taught them – review games and follow-up moments at the end of service (take-home papers or bulletins could also fit this heading).

The vaudeville Show Model –

I came across this a few years back after watching Duane Laflin speak about the psychological needs of an audience:

  • Excitement – something that gets the show/service off to a fun and exciting start
  • Introduction – welcoming the audience and helping them to feel comfortable with being there
  • Identification – showing in an exciting way why you are all together or, preview your lesson
  • Involvement – get the audience engaged… Invite people to participate – both corporately as well as individuals… Every kid wants to help
  • Solid Content – This was the feature act – teach the “meat” of the lesson
  • Confirmation – give the audience a chance to respond and let them leave feeling positive about what they just experienced – like an altar call, and a review. The kids should leave with a sense that they can put what you just taught them into practice.

The Intensity Model of a Children’s Ministry Setting –

I’ve used this for years to help structure how a childrne’s church should look:

  • Kids are excited, rowdy and silly at the beginning of a class – match that with some controlled chaos… Fun games, exciting songs, silly or funny characters.
  • About half way to two-thirds thru the class time is when the kids are at their most attentive – teach the most important things during this window… The main sermon, prayer time, worship times.
  • As the class comes to a close, the kids will start to get rowdy again, so end with excitement elements… Review games, songs that relate to the topic, funny characters who need help from the kids in reviewing the lesson.

I hope you can see how each of these models kind of “morphs” together to create a good structure for a children’s church setting.

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IMG_0320It Starts When They Walk In…

For this portion of the series, I want to focus on getting the Children’s Church experience started…

…Before you can start the 5 minute countdown, make a grandiose announcement, send in a crazy character, start your Bible on fire, or eat donuts suspended from a rope, we need some kids to come thru the doors. If the kids don’t show up, you’d be starting your Bible on fire for, well… nobody.

But what can you do to keep kids from getting bored from the moment they come into your ministry area?

Engage Them… Here Are a Few Suggestions:

  • Decor- Have your ministry room(s) decorated to reflect the theme of your ministry or the topic that you are teaching. Whether you have the ability, permission and money to deck-out an area for kids or you have to set it up and tear it down; kids know when they are being welcomed and if you’ve prepared for them. Banners, backdrops, balloons, props/scenery and murals will create an environment that kids will remember.
  • Ambiance- Music that is upbeat and fun or anticipatory will help kids feel like this is the place just for them. Light up the room(s) with different colors to help accent and compliment the look of the room. Video clips that are familiar or interesting to kids will make a welcoming experience. AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE – clean up the clutter, vacuum, adjust the temp and eliminate odor!
  • Activities- When kids enter any new environment, their internal intensity changes. Kids need an outlet for energy. So have some energy-outlet friendly stuff ready. Board games, twister, an art station, simple “carnival”-type games, long-jump contests, high-jump contests, follow the leader, quiz games, treasure/scavenger hunts, video games… Use your imagination. I mean, look at it as if “nothing kid-friendly is off-limits”.
  • Relational Interaction- Having the leaders in your areas who are initiating interaction will create a memory and set the temperature for an experience. What do the leaders do? Ask kid-related questions; about their clothes, school, shoes, movies, video games, toys, pets, vacation, friends, etc. Having some conversation starters are important. Read my post about “The Stuff I’ve Kept in my Pockets” These little items will help leaders start conversations and create experiences.

Have I given you something to think about? BTW: You can buy a Bible that starts on fire here… I use mine all the time!

More later.

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Enforce the Rules By Keeping the Kids Engaged

Want some harsh but honest criticism? Read on… if you’re feelings are easily hurt, then skip down to the next point and take the chance that you will still have issues with children following the rules.

You’re still here. Ok, ready?

Don’t be boring.

…sometimes kids behave the way they do because they are bored and disengaged with what’s happening around them. Be a more exciting teacher, storyteller, announcement person, offering presenter, welcome guy, etc. Whatever your segment is, make it as fun, interesting and/or exciting as you can.

Recognize children who follow the rules

It’s not enough to just point-out to a child that they’re being naughty. You can often times change the atmosphere and give the rest of the audience reason to suddenly sit-up, sit still, listen, smile, etc. It’s called recognition. And it works. Every kid wants to earn an “A”… every kid wants to be noticed for doing good. When I sense there seems to various children chatting with each other and squirming about. I start my segment by “noticing” a child and making a big deal about their behavior:

“Hey everyone look over here at Chloe! Chloe, you are doing such an great job sitting up and paying attention. I love how you do that… you’re an amazing kid.”

Suddenly, every kid will want to meet your expectation.

Offer incentives from time to time.

Incentives have often times been misinterpreted as “bribes”. Perpetuating the statement: “I don’t want to bribe the kids to behave.” I understand…

…but, a bribe is defined as a payment offered to someone to do or allow something evil.

I define an incentive as a reward. I love to reward kids. But, I don’t offer incentives every time I teach children. You would need to decide for yourself if you should ever offer rewards… what those rewards should be… and how often would a reward be offered.

I enjoy giving out rewards that relate to our series. We did a back to school series – we gave away various school supplies and the kids loved it as equally as when we did an entire series that used a different kind of candy each week so we gave away that particularly kind of candy. We didn’t always just hand it to kids who were well behaved. Sometimes, you could be chosen to answer the review questions or play the review game and we would reward the players of the game. You might consider reserving prizes for special days or when you realize after a few weeks of children not paying attention, you need and incentive to offer to kids who are engaging in the service.

Focus on Ministry More than the Rules

It should go without saying – you’re there to pastor the kids, not be an enforcer. The rules, like any teaching method, should only help enhance the ministry that’s already taking place in your service. I like kids to know I’m firm, but fun… fair and even flexible. I would rather just remind kids of rules and focus on teaching the Word of God.

Next time, (and I promise that part 4 will be last of the “rules” posts) I will give you some tips and ideas for those times when you need to enforce the rules or just remind kids of the rules while you’re still teaching. Thanks for all the great feedback during this series. Please share on Facebook and Twitter – and please comment.

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IMG_0292Rules are not a fun subject – but I believe they are necessary!

Regardless of the lack of actual comments on the last post – I was encouraged with the feedback from twitter, Facebook and with personal messages from friends, and fellow KidMin leaders. Hey, I even got a shout-out from the Kids Pastor at our church during children’s church while she reviewed the rules with the kids 🙂

Here we go with Part 2:

Consider Changing the Rules to Fit Your Needs

That’s why I have a rule that says: “Obey All Rules”. It gives us license that if we need to make a rule to help the kids learn, we will. If a leader has noticed a lack of participation with our worship times in previous weeks, he/she can say something like: “Today we are adding an extra rule… it’s called ‘Everyone Participates’. If it’s time to sing, we want everyone to sing, if it’s time to learn, we need everyone paying attention…”

Make Warnings & Consequences Fair and Helpful

You wouldn’t dismiss a child from your service with a harsh lecture in front of the other children should that child break a rule and it’s their first infraction…. would you? Of course not. It’s not fair.

Let’s face it: kids get excited and will respond with outward expression. If something exciting happens and kids exclaim: “WOW!” cool – it’s what we want. Right? We want children engaged – so make sure you and your leaders can discern when the breaking of rules is a reaction to what’s happening —OR— it’s a problem of the child just doing whatever they want and it’s distracting or interruption the service.

I tend to allow 2-3 personal, verbal warnings from a leader who is not teaching. After that, the child is moved back a row or 2 (I always try to move a child back —OR— off to the side if they are already a few rows back). This is usually serious enough in the mind of the child that they will try harder to follow the rules. If the child is still having a hard time, I have them moved to the very back row (we keep the back row of one of the sections reserved for this purpose). The child is told that before he/she can leave that they will need to have a short meeting with their parents and a leader.

There have only been a few rare cases in which we had to dismiss a child by calling their parent during the service.

By handling the consequences this way, it’s fair because the child gets to remain in the room and receive ministry and participate in worship. It’s fair because the parent get’s to part of the solution. It’s helpful, because the child is moved further back where fewer children will see that child if said child chooses to continue in their behavior.

Let me just state that there are at least 2 more parts to this subject – why so much? I guess I have a lot to say about it. Please feel free to share and comment.

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I hate rules… I really do.

I prefer to do things my way, on my time, with little to no restrictions. That’s how creative people tend to thrive. It feels like freedom – like the sky’s the limit. But I’ve come to realize that I’m sometimes most effective when parameters are defined and a specific objective has been communicated so I can creatively work toward a goal. So, I guess rules are a good thing.

And they are a good thing in your children’s church. Rules are necessary and they can help you reach your objective with kids. It can help kids reach the objective of having a better experience at church.

So without further ado – I give you my thoughts on rules in Children’s Church

Make Only a Few Rules

If you want kids to follow rules, they need to be able to remember the rules. If you give them a list of 10 rules for your hour and fifteen minute experience, it could come across as overwhelming. Kids interpret “overwhelming” as “boring” and may find the list unattainable and stress-inducing. It may cause certain children to disengage or “tune-you-out” when it comes time to review the rules – in turn, tuning-you-out during other parts of the service. If you have more than 5, consider either trimming the list or finding a way to separate the rules for specific scheduled events. For instance: if you have an activity time before and/or after the service (crafts, board games, drawing tables, video games, lego tables) there could be specific rules for that scheduled time: Keep all activities at their own tables; Walk-don’t run; Everyone gets a turn; Respect others at each activity, etc… This might help scale down your list for the service time.

Make Rules that Are Possible to Follow

Remember, these are kids. The rules in your Children’s Church need to be reachable by children. Don’t have unrealistic expectations or rules that have no purpose except for you to flex your authoritative muscle. This could be confusing for the children or, again, overwhelming.

Make Direct Rules

I believe if rules are direct, they leave little to interpret for the audience you’re teaching or ministering to. I like rules that get to the point so we can explain/review them or remind the crowd and move on. Rules like:

  • “Don’t Talk With out a Microphone.”
  • “Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission”
  • “Wear Your Name Tag”
  • “Obey All Rules”

These are the rules we’ve used in our Children’s Church Experiences for over 16 years… and they’ve worked for us. Each rule is simple and direct and the last rule leaves it open if any leader would need to make a rule to fit the day or situation.

“What about sounding too negative?” I get it – I really do get what you’re asking. Instead of saying: “no talking”, say: “please stay quiet and listen” — OR — instead of saying: “Don’t Leave Your Seat”, say: “Please Say In Your Seat”. Trust me, you’re not going to offend children by being direct. But if that’s what floats your boat, be as positive as possible.

Another idea I’ve seen is using the name of the Children’s Church time as an acronym:

“KIDS Church”

  • K- Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • I- If you need to speak raise your hand
  • D- Don’t speak without a microphone
  • S- Stay seated unless called on

(I just helped someone out there come up with some rules didn’t I?)

Announce the Rules Ahead of Time

Your children won’t know the rules unless they are reviewed each service. This accomplishes several things:

  1. It reminds the children what the rules are and what is expected of them during the service time. This can be done with a video announcement, someone live explaining the rules, someone explaining the rules to a character of some sort (puppet, costumed character, clown, etc).
  2. It allows you to confidently address an issue if a child is bending or breaking one of the rules. A leader in the room has the advantage of looking at a child or group of children and simply stating: “Remember, there’s no talking without a microphone.”
  3. Perhaps you need to meet with a parent following the service to discuss their child’s choice to consistently disobey the rules. You have the confidence of knowing you can refer to the rules that are reviewed each service.

So there you have Part 1. In the next post, I will discuss tailoring rules, how to handle the consequences, incentives, and some tools I’ve used for refocusing a large group while I’m teaching. What other rules would you add? What rules do you have?

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IMG_0245I still believe that one of the best ways to minister to children is with the “Children’s Church” model.

Call it “Children’s Church”, “Kids Church”, “Junior Church”, “Large Group Time,” etc. Whatever it’s called, it’s important to promote unity through corporate worship and teaching.

During this series on Making Your Children’s Church Better, we will explore the little details that make a huge impact. Today, we’re talking “Transitions”.  In the last 7 months, our family has had the privilege of traveling the United States and observe the services for children in churches and at Kids Camps. We’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to service planning and presentation… and the transitions stood out the most. So, here are few of my thoughts, tips, ideas and advice for keeping your Children’s Services moving along smoothly:

Know what you’re going to say before you start speaking

  • Have a transitional statement and make it intentional: Don’t start your statement with: “Alright…”, “OK…” and “Well…” These are so common and it makes you sound like you’re unsure about what to say.
  • Consider a “grabber statement” as your first line: “Something REALLY embarrassing happened to me the other day…”; “When I was a kid…”; “I’m bringing my teddy-bear next week! So should you for our pajama day!”
  • Ask the kids a question that you’re confident they will answer: “Does anyone here like candy? I thought so – I’m going to give some away…”; “Don’t you wish you had more money?”
  • Get kids to respond by doing something rather than just raising their hands: “If you’re excited to be here shout ‘Oh Yeah!”; “When I count 3-2-1, Jump out of your chair and give me a big cheer!”; “Give someone next to you a high 5!”; “Knock-knock…I said: Knock-knock…”
  • Affirming statements will surprise your audience: “WOW…The kids in this room are pretty awesome.”; “Good morning, I’m so happy that you’re here!”: “I love getting to be with you – You kids are great!”
  • Get the group to mimic you: Clap your hands in a pattern and point to the kids. Keep doing it until everyone is doing it. Start chanting something that has to do with your segment: “Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here…” Motion to the kids to start chanting with you – getting louder and louder as you go.

Music Transitions help to set a mood.

I love Music – it’s powerful and can be so useful in ministry. But like anything, it’s a tool that should enhance the message or segments that have already be prepared. Background music can be found in a variety of places. I personally don’t like using music with recorded lyrics as background music when teaching – I feel that it will detract from what’s being talked about. I also don’t like altar music that is popular worship music if I’m talking over the top – again, it can be distracting. I don’t mind using worship music with lyrics while children are praying during a prolonged prayer time.

I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids, music by friend and mentor Randy Christensen and music by Gospel Magic/Music Producer, Arthur Stead.

Here’s how I use a background music for transitions and segments:

  • For Segments: I prefer to use music to create a mood during a segment When the assigned person begins talking the background music chosen fades in just loud enough to be heard but not overpowering.
  • For Characters: Music that’s used for characters is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For Teaching (gospel magic routines and object lessons): The music starts immediately as the main teach begins talking.
  • For the Main Illustration: The music begins immediately as the main teacher begins talking.

Video Transitions help to set a mood.

Kids live in a visual, digital age and using visuals is so important. There are many ways to use video clips as teaching tools, but this post is specifically about transitions. Again, I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids.

  • For Segments: As I am finishing my segment, the media team already knows my final statement. as soon as I say the final word in my final statement, they know to start the video. The video plays for a 3-5 second duration when the next person begins talking. As that person begins talking the video fades away and just a screen shot of the video remains on the screen.
  • For Characters: I do create intro animated and static videos (videos in which there is no movement on the screen, just an image that relates to the character) with music in the background to help introduce the character. again the music-video is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For the Main Illustration: I believe a good “bumper” video can be a great way to transition into your main message. A “bumper” video is similar as a transition video used for various segments, but it’s customized with the title of your series and/or the title of the message. It’s only 10-20 seconds with music and video footage or animation that relates to your topic. Many curriculum companies include “bumper” videos for Large-group times. A “bumper” video can be easily created with the modern video editing software as well as creating animated slides in PowerPoint and Keynote that can be exported as digital video files. Perhaps I will demonstrate how I use Keynote to accomplish this in a later post.

A few More Thoughts

  • Timing is Crucial from Segment to Segment: In other words, if there is a leader on the stage presenting the announcements and I am the next person who is supposed to present the offering. I don’t want to be hanging out in the back of the room waiting for the person on stage to finish and motion to me or have to introduce me so I know when to start making my way up to the stage… thus leaving an awkward moment of silence or an awkward moment of the leader having to figure out what to say while I’m meandering my way to the stage.  Instead, I want to know the list of announcements… and their order… and what the previous leader’s final statement will be. As the final announcement is starting, I make my way to the front. During the final statement, I start to walk on stage so I can begin my segment.
  • Stop Introducing the Next Person: Unless they are a guest-speaker or someone who is not known to the kids. Otherwise, use the methods already listed to make the transitions smoother.
  • Have a Microphone in your Hand or on your Ear: That way, when your segment starts, you’re not speed-walking to the opposite side of the stage to get it. Or, your not aimlessly searching around and asking,”What Mic do I use?” BTW: make sure it’s been tested and is functioning properly.
  • Props or Visuals In Place and Ready: If your segment begins with you walking on stage and picking up a prop, hand-out example, offering bucket or other visual — double-check that its in it’s place and ready to be used.
  • Get Everyone On the Same Page: Do meet with all presenters and the media team so everyone knows how to handle the transitions. It might be necessary to have a walk-thru rehearsal where media cues are practiced and opening and final statements are practiced. I suggest using PlanningCenterOnline.com to plan your services that will include the lengths for segments and transitional/media cues. There is a free version that can get you started.

You can find even more videos at WorshipHouseKids.com

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564736_597514190259187_754582564_nIllustrating the Word of God for kids is a good thing.

I have often heard the argument:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

It’s sad, really. It’s sad because I have watched effective Children’s Ministry communicators shy away from taking advantage of great and creative methods in their presentations because of that statement alone.

I was teaching several workshops on creative teaching methods at a children’s ministry conference where I overheard several criticize me and other workshop leaders for placing an unhealthy emphasis on the methods.

Guess what? I can agree with the statement:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

However, I can only agree with that statement with the following addendum:

“…as long as most of the time, energy and emphasis is placed on the method and very little time, energy and emphasis is spent on the message.”

Unfortunately, the aforementioned addendum is rarely heard… thus holding back the children’s ministry specialist from embracing the effective methods that are available to him/her.

And all of that is worked out in the planning stages of the message. 

In the next few posts I want to explain a few things that should be happening BEFORE the presentation starts… and hopefully, you, the children’s ministry leader – a teacher of God’s Word, can find freedom to “Marry” the message and the method so you can bring your messages to life.

Stay tuned…

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stress-2I have become a firm believer that the blame for many of the discipline issues we face in children’s ministry cannot be placed completely on the children.

After all, most of the time, children are just being children – they have not been deliberately sent by the devil to disrupt you class, service or small-group.

It starts with US. Yes, you and me and our ability to plan ahead, be engaging and going the extra mile. In this way we aren’t just disciplining children- instead we can attempt to steer children who are simply being children so they can have a positive experience, learn something new, stay safe and encounter and almighty God.

We have to handle the discipline issues before the discipline issues ever start:

Have a PLAN for the Kids from the Moment they Arrive Until the Moment they Leave. Be properly prepared to carry-out that plan in your service or class… Remember, if you are not prepared and you don’t have a plan, the kids are always prepared with their plan… and they will begin carrying it out.

This doesn’t mean you have to be super-rigid and run a military-reform school. You can have free-time,or activity time, but schedule it and make the time-frame seem intentional.

Give Them Something To Do. When kids enter your room, do you expect them to just sit there and wait until you’re ready? Again, they will interpret that as boring. Have activities and engaging things ready so when kids enter your room, they have something to do besides implement their own plan. We have a game table with UNO cards, Rock-Em-Socke-Em Robots and Jenga Blocks. We have a LEGO table. We 2 long tables covered with paper so kids can draw whatever they want. We have Speedstacks tables with timers. Occasionally, we have the old Nintendos with Mario Card hooked up.

These activity tables not only give the kids something to do when the enter the room, it is a way for them to connect with each other… and it’s a way for our leaders to engage with the kids and build the relational bridge (see below)

Don’t be Boring! If kids interpret what you’re doing as “boring”, they will have something they interpret as “fun” ready to go. Use variety, and relevant teaching methods. Use a child’s natural intensity level when planning your services. In other-words: put fun, exciting and fast stuff on the front end of your service. Put the serious stuff in the middle. End your service with fun, exciting and fast stuff. See my series on the Kids Are Bored

Aim at the older children with the stuff and aim at the younger children with the length: Use music, graphics, video clips, characters and verbiage the older crowd will relate to… the younger kids will “aspire up” and want to be like the older kids. But, use a minute per year of age for each segment. If the youngest child in your service is 6 – You have 6 minutes max for each segment. See my post on How a Child Interprets Their World

Have Clearly Stated Rules Ahead of Time. These should be rules that BOTH the child and parent understand… abd these should also be rules that CAN BE accomplished by the child.

Ron Brooks and I differ on our approach – and yet, we are still friends 🙂 Ron’s approach is pushing a positive out come from the children ie. I Can Listen, I Can Show Respect, etc. For more of Ron’s view on rules, head over to his post.

Mine are direct and straightforward:

  • Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission – I emphasize that there will be times that permission is given. I also state that leaving your seat and invading someone else’s seat with your hands or feet is leaving your seat.
  • Don’t Talk Without a Microphone – I want the kids to know that there will be times to answer questions, but wait until the microphone is put in front of you. There will be appropriate times to laugh and cheer – but wait for something funny to happen.
  • Wear Your Name Tag – I want these kids to stay safe. I want to know that they are supposed to be in the room and I want to get to know and call them by their own names.
  • Obey All Rules – This covers the first few rules, but it also covers any instruction or directive that is given by any of our leaders.

Consistently Review the Rules. Kids cannot follow your rules if they don’t know what those rules are each week. We carve-out a time at the very beginning of our service to review the rules. Sometimes it’s quick and takes all of 2 minutes to review and explain the rules. Sometimes something fun happens… like a character enters who has the wrong idea about what the rules are. Sometimes we have a quiz-show and get kids from the audience to state our rules. Either way, guests will know what’s expected and regulars will be reminded.

Consistently Enforcing Those Rules. Make sure you and your leaders know when the best course of action is to sit with a disruptive child; when it’s time to separate children to different seats; when a child should remain afterwards so a discussion with a parent is necessary or when a child should be removed from a service or classroom and a parent needs to be notified. Read my last post on confronting parents.

Offer Incentives. Don’t just skip over this section. I have people all the time think that it’s wrong to bribe kids. Bribery has very little to do with incentives. Here’s my thought: Every kid wants to earn the trophy.  It’s really about the recognition for following the rules. Sometimes offering a tangible reward (candy, points for their team, points or “Bible Bucks” for your prize store, etc) is a great way to reward children – they all want to win the trophy. Other times, just “catching” kids who follow your rules with a lot of positive recognition in front of everyone else will make them want to earn it again. Both methods make others in the room want to earn the same trophy.

Enter a Kids’ World. Be relational. This earns you the right to be heard and respected – thus, eliminating a whole lot of discipline issues. Before I teach a group of kids, I love to walk around, give high-fives, fist bumps and shake hands. I ask funny questions and play as many of the games and activities as I can with the kids. I try to notice new shoes, haircuts, dresses and the toys kids bring with them. It let’s children know that I notice them and see them as a priority – not an afterthought.  See my post on the Stuff I’ve Kept in my Pockets.

Deliberately Approach “Those Kids”. You know the ones… these are the kids that you secretly hope are on vacation each week. They are the children who are consistently rambunctious, disrespectful and you seem to have issues with them any time they are in your class or service. I have had to make it a priority to pray for those kids during the week. I have asked God to give me compassion for these kids we typically define as “problem children”. And I believe that God has given me compassion for these kids.

Walk up to those kids each time they darken your door, get down on their level, look them in the eyes, smile your biggest and most sincere smile and tell them how happy you are that they are there. Ask them about their week, Ask them what was the funnest thing they did that week in school, invite them to play an activity with you. You will notice a difference.

I realize this has been a long post, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas as to how you can handle the discipline issues before they really become issues.

To listen to the radio show with me, Ron Brooks, and Tom Bump on March 20, 2014 – 7:00 PM Mountain Time.

If you missed it or cannot join us, I will post the link to the podcast at a later date.

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It’s inevitable – Parent Confrontation

If you haven’t had to do it in your children’s ministry yet, then there’s probably something wrong. It doesn’t happen every week, but it will be a regular occurrence if you have to deal with discipline issues. There are some important factors to consider when confronting parents and having to explain a discipline issue. After-all, you don’t want to be known as the minister who is constantly a negative bearer of bad news or unpleasant to deal with.

Here is a concise list of the things to keep in mind if and when you will have to confront parents about their child’s behavior and actions:

  • Be respectful.
  • Look into their eyes.
  • Remember they are the authority figure in their child’s world.
  • Be clear and concise – explain what rules have been violated and the actions already taken.
  • Do yourself a favor ahead of time: have clearly communicated policies and rules in the classroom that both the child and parent are ALREADY aware of.
  • Be willing to offer an exception if it’s obvious the rules/policies were not known ahead of time.
  • Be forgiving, showing mercy and grace – Be willing to offer another chance.
  • Have a plan for moving forward with the child – If is this just a warning: what will the plan for the future be should we have trouble in the next few weeks?
  • Ask the parents to help you know what to do if the issue(s) ever surface again.
  • Pray a positive prayer over the Parent(s) and child before they leave.
  • Follow-up with the parent and the child later in the week.

What would you add to the list?

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